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Veterinary technology program gives students real-world experiences for successful careers in animal science

SISD Vet students 

The Career and Technical Education veterinary technology program is preparing more students with real-world experience and industry certifications so that they can jump into the animal science workforce right after graduation.

In the last couple of years, despite the struggles with the ongoing pandemic, the program has successfully increased the number of students who have earned their level one veterinary assistant certification.

The innovative CTE program gives students hands-on, real-world experience and the opportunity to earn the certification by graduation at Pebble Hills, El Dorado and Eastlake high schools.

Dr. Marie Raley, who oversees the program at Eastlake High School, said that the program is made possible by the students, educators, and parents who come together as a community to help the students accomplish their goals.

“We are very fortunate because our CTE program just supports us with everything and anything that we need,” Dr. Raley said. “The students are taken care of, whatever they need, be it transportation, scrubs, or personal protective equipment.”

Over their high school years, students gain experience and coursework in sciences before they can pursue their veterinary assistant certification in their senior year. In preparation for the certification, students learn the basic skills needed to work in a veterinary clinic by being placed to work and gain hands-on experience at a local veterinary clinic.

This was especially difficult for students the last two years as the ongoing pandemic led to a citywide shutdown to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Instructors and students struggled to find clinics that would let students on board to gain the experience and 300 hours needed to become certified.

Despite the challenges, Pebble Hills, El Dorado and Eastlake High School veterinary technology programs had a total of 11 students become certified during the 2019-2020 school year and increased to 35 student certifications during the 2020-2021 school year.

“The students who were part of the Class of 2020 and 2021 were resilient,” Dr. Raley said. “It was hard for them to get up early, on Saturdays, and during breaks, but it challenged them. I’ve had the privilege of seeing them grow from young students to professionals and it’s a real pleasure to see all their hard work pay off at the end.”

Among the certified graduates was Zayla Kay, Eastlake High School Class of 2021, who said that before coming to SISD she had no idea she could work with animals, which she loves, so she decided to try out the program. She said that graduating and having a better paying job coming out of high school also was especially appealing.

Kay is now employed at the West Texas Veterinary Clinic, where she previously completed her hours for the certification, and is applying to college.

“When I go to work it doesn’t feel like work, it just feels like I’m having fun,” she said.

This year, 116 students have enrolled in SISD’s veterinary technology program, determined to become tomorrow’s leaders in veterinary science.

"I picked this program because I have a strong interest in animals, how their bodies work, what they need to survive,” said El Dorado High School junior Isabella Alicia Romero. “I also like that we get to go to a veterinary clinic and practice what we learn in class."

For more information on the SISD Career and Technical Education programs, please visit https://www.sisd.net/CTE.

Published September 10, 2021

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